My spiritual formation has been a “chop-suey” of evangelical traditions and cultures. I was raised in a conservative Chinese Church, where people tried their best to raise us (the millennial generation). Children’s and Youth ministry was a mix of “trial and error” and “grass root” movements, which were impactful nonetheless. Were they perfect? No, but what it did do for me was increase my passion for vocational ministry among teens and young adults.
However, as I have journeyed through my life and explored different schools of thought and orthodoxies, I have found various hidden “Jewels” that I wish more Churches held to. One of those “Jewels” is “Confirmation”. One of the misconceptions about “confirmation” is that it is exclusively a Roman Catholic teaching. This is not true, since Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, Methodist, Anglican and even Baptist, currently or at some time in their history, have viewed “confirmation” as important.
For me my first question when studying confirmation more in depth a couple years back was, “What is the Biblical foundation for this understanding?“. Most of the answers I received were along the lines of “receiving the Holy Spirit” or “baptism of the holy Spirit” in Acts 8:14-17. This put me in a state of contemplation as I was not raised to view “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that way. I was raised to understand that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was something that happened at conversion…or was it? I was also told, that if you were of the Pentecostal or Assembly of God tradition, “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a completely separate event that happened AFTER conversion.
So let’s back up…what is “Confirmation” according to Church tradition?
“In Christianity, confirmation is either considered a sacrament or rite – depending on the beliefs – of the practitioners, ceremonially performed in a church, which signifies the faith and commitment of a person, who desires to publicize their convictions to their family, friends, and church.”
Wait, I was told that was Baptism! Yet baptism also granted me the ability to be a member of the church. I was deeply confused!
Baptism in many of the churches I have been able to observe, serves as a multi-purpose event…it was the “3 in 1” or “trinity event” 😉
- Church Membership
I inquired “why is this the case and where do we find Biblical support” for doing it this way? I have received the answer, “well, its just easier and more efficient to do it this way“.
The thirst for efficiency in the church, has caused more harm than demons themselves. (Yes you can quote me on that)
At the last church I pastored (which was very efficient by the way), according to our survey two years in a row, 80-85% of the baptized students had no idea why they got baptized other than it was “something to do” or that “their parents pressured them” to do it.
I (and other pastors I worked with) were part of conversations where we were pressured by parents and elders to “approve” someone for baptism who had no idea about Christianity nor the desire for Jesus–just because it would “look bad” or “embarrass the parents and elders” if we denied their baptismal request, or the worse one I’ve heard, “we need to hit our baptism numbers, so push this one through“. My heart broke…what have we become?!
My “two cents”…
- The Church needs to isolate baptism to “the declaration to follow Christ” and that is it. Period. No strings attached. Baptism should be an open event based on a profession of faith and the desire to follow Jesus. (I am an advocated of baptism happening right after the declaration of faith. “Believe and be baptized” (Acts 2:41)). It also should provide the right to partake in communion.
- Confirmation needs to be a separate event when after a period of time, a person is evaluated by the church leadership to exemplify: Christ like character, possession/ indwelling of the Holy Spirit and evidence of sanctification. This should be a more rigorous process in contrast to baptism, and available to those who have been baptized.
- Church membership should not be connected to baptism. It needs to remain completely separate, reserved for those who have been baptized, been confirmed and have a desire to serve in a leadership position in the Church. The membership process should be even more rigorous than the confirmation process. Members need to serve, there is no such thing as a “non-active member” and only members can serve as deacons and elders.
I am not claiming that this will solve all of the Evangelical Church’s problems when it comes to millennials or that Churches that go about it this way are better. However, it may help address some of the problems concerning millennials who have been baptized (with all the strings attached) who are sitting there going “what the heck was all that for?” and who were taught that baptism was the “end all be all” which has led them to be no longer involved in a the church for lack of understanding.
- Baptism is an event that is between you and Jesus that is witnessed by the world around you
- Confirmation is an event where the church body you are apart of, confirms that you are in fact, by their observance and interaction, are a legitimate follower of Christ, redeemed by Jesus and recipient of the Holy Spirit
- Church Membership is a privilege that is granted to those who are dedicated to serve in leadership in that specific local church
Separating these three events could greatly increase the way your church does discipleship. Sure it will put more responsibility upon the church leadership, but I really think by using Baptism, Confirmation and Church Membership this way, it could really increase the spiritual maturity of your not only your young adult’s but entire church as well.
I hope that this is beneficial for at least some of you to read 🙂